One of the biggest challenges for students is just getting to class; their parents have to get them there early each morning, 25 minutes before the normal middle-school start time and 35 minutes before high-schoolers come in the building for first block.
“The parents have to get them here at 8:15; we will get them to the schools for the rest of the day,” O’Bryan said. “There’s no bus to pick them up, so it was a commitment on their part. We thought finding 30 kids would be hard.”
Last week, students worked on a similarity unit, sketching designs of an object in real life and then creating 3-D models on computers before building scale models.
Some East Middle eighth-graders have a leg up, having already used the Inventor software in classes at their home school.
Chris Nichols, who was working on a scale model of a pencil sharpener, said the class has been a bit harder than his other classes at East Middle but that he’s always been told he’s a natural at math and engineering.
“It’s more challenging than other ones, I think because I’ve experienced new commands in this class,” he said. “There’s nothing really new to it; it’s just that you’ve got to focus, and that’s all every class is.”
Both teachers said it took nearly the whole fall semester for the East Middle and West Middle students to warm up to each other and get used to a less-structured environment where they sometimes run between the two classrooms.
“Up until Christmas, really, it was like pulling teeth — you had to force them to interact with each other, and they hated it,” O’Bryan said. “Now, they do it without even thinking about it.
Kearns said the eighth-graders have done “at least equal if not better” work than the high-schoolers in his engineering classes, but he also said there was an adjustment period.
“I think the middle-schoolers are so structured and so rigid; it takes them a while to get used to another person, and they’re still more territorial over their school,” he said.
The biggest barrier to adding more eighth-grade classes at JCTC is transportation, O’Bryan said, but she said she would like to see more classes spanning different subject areas and integrating core content with career and technical education. She said she and Kearns will do the same eighth-grade class next year, perhaps after a few tweaks for improvement.
“There will be a geo/IED class here in some way, shape or form — we just don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like,” she said.